From the brilliantly green and glossy eggs of the Elegant Crested Tinamou—said to be among the most beautiful in the world—to the small brown eggs of the house sparrow that makes its nest in a lamppost and the uniformly brown or white chickens’ eggs found by the dozen in any corner grocery, birds’ eggs have inspired countless biologists, ecologists, and ornithologists, as well as artists, from John James Audubon to the contemporary photographer Rosamond Purcell. For scientists, these vibrant vessels are the source of an array of interesting topics, from the factors responsible for egg coloration to the curious practice of “brood parasitism,” in which the eggs of cuckoos mimic those of other bird species in order to be cunningly concealed among the clutches of unsuspecting foster parents.
The Book of Eggs introduces readers to eggs from six hundred species—some endangered or extinct—from around the world and housed mostly at Chicago’s Field Museum of Natural History. Organized by habitat and taxonomy, the entries include newly commissioned photographs that reproduce each egg in full color and at actual size, as well as distribution maps and drawings and descriptions of the birds and their nests where the eggs are kept warm. Birds’ eggs are some of the most colorful and variable natural products in the wild, and each entry is also accompanied by a brief description that includes evolutionary explanations for the wide variety of colors and patterns, from camouflage designed to protect against predation, to thermoregulatory adaptations, to adjustments for the circumstances of a particular habitat or season. Throughout the book are fascinating facts to pique the curiosity of binocular-toting birdwatchers and budding amateurs alike. Female mallards, for instance, invest more energy to produce larger eggs when faced with the genetic windfall of an attractive mate. Some seabirds, like the cliff-dwelling guillemot, have adapted to produce long, pointed eggs, whose uneven weight distribution prevents them from rolling off rocky ledges into the sea.
A visually stunning and scientifically engaging guide to six hundred of the most intriguing eggs, from the pea-sized progeny of the smallest of hummingbirds to the eggs of the largest living bird, the ostrich, which can weigh up to five pounds, The Book of Eggs offers readers a rare, up-close look at these remarkable forms of animal life.
About the Author
Mark E. Hauber is professor in the Animal Behavior and Conservation Program at Hunter College, City University of New York.
“This big book is the equivalent of a guided tour through the Bird Division of Chicago’s Field Museum. It presents the eggs of six hundred species in color and at actual size and includes surprises, such as the immense egg of the long-gone Great Elephantbird, the tallest and heaviest bird ever to walk the planet. . . . An excellent introduction explains egg anatomy, physiology, size, shape, coloring, nests, and breeding strategies.” — Birdwatching
"A fabulous reference book, every image in lovely color—one image of the egg actual size and one of the egg larger, for detail—with sketches of the birds and maps showing territory. It’s fascinating to leaf through, and affirming: On every page, it’s spring!" — Minneapolis Star Tribune
“Oology gets a boost this week. . . . The Book of Eggs is a beautiful doorstopper of a guide to the eggs of six hundred bird species.” — WBUR, the Animalist
“Stunning. . . . Sometimes we are oblivious to miraculous objects in our daily lives. [The Book of Eggs] prompts us to see eggs in a new light.” — Guardian
“Who cares whether the chicken or the egg came first? The egg is far more interesting—at least in author Mark Hauber’s hands. . . . Hauber drew on the Field Museum’s collection of 23,000 sets of bird eggs to write The Book of Eggs, an illustrated field guide that explores the avian birthing process. . . . Eggs produced by the gray-hooded Sierra-finch, yellow-billed loon, and glossy ibis are among the treasures featured.” — Chicago Tribune, Printers Row
“Boiled, coddled, fried, scrambled, or poached, our usual interaction with eggs is as a consumer: the inside is to be eaten. Once broken, the shell is lobbed in the bin and forgotten. Except that this is probably not what you are going to do after reading The Book of Eggs. Newly enlightened on egg biology and physiology, you may find yourself pointing out that the dimple in the broad end of an egg is where the air sac lay. Or perhaps you will be motivated to look at an egg shell through a lens, the better to see the tiny pores that allow air in while keeping water and toxins out—or even pause before eating your fried egg to dissect the yolk in search of its seven layers.” — New Scientist
“A welcome reference in an ornithology lab and a good reference for other audiences interested in bird eggs.” — Choice
“Unlike most mammals, birds lay eggs, a curious and wildly successful reproductive strategy that has fascinated humans for millennia. Chicago’s Field Museum of Natural History maintains one of the world’s largest collections of bird eggs, and this new guidebook offers a detailed (and life-sized) look at six hundred of them, from the eggs of the common house sparrow to the elegant crested tinamou.” — Orion
“A lovely addition to a bird enthusiast’s bookshelf or any actively browsed coffee table.” — Wilson Journal of Ornithology
“Hauber has collected images of the eggs of six hundred of the world’s bird species and presents them in life size and full color with supporting illustrations and text in a manner that is both fascinating as well as informative. . . . The wonders of the amazing variety of shapes, sizes, colors, peculiarities, evolutionary adaptations, and all the other elements that for so long held so many naturalists in thrall to bird eggs will begin to make their charms understood—without, of course, any risk to the bird populations themselves.” — Bird Watcher's Digest